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Review: The New Look New Polo

Posted: Thu Jul 14, 2005 11:02 am
by dxg
As most members of this community will be aware, Volkswagen recently launched the 9N3 - a face-lifted version of the well-loved 9N (also known as the Mark VI). The updates revise the external appearance of the Polo to more closely reflect the emerging VW corporate nose, while also altering the engine line up, the interior, and the Polo's model designations. Volkswagen hope that these revisions will prolong the Polo's success as their second-best selling model (behind the Golf) and they aim to sell 36,000 each year. Volkswagen UK recently invited to the UK launch of the updated Polo, and we are pleased to report our findings in this review.


Model Revisions

Volkswagen have marked the thirtieth year of the Polo's production by introducing new external styling, revised interior equipment, several engine revisions and a new model line-up to the market. They mark an evolution in the Polo's development and represent a mid-cycle updating of Volkswagen's application of the PQ24 platform (shared with the Skoda Fabia and Seat Ibiza).

The facelift has, for the time being, seen the loss of the Dune. The GT moniker has also been dropped in favour of badging the 130PS TDI as the range-topping 'Sport' model. This simplifies the range and brings further weight to the promotion of the GT as a 'Q' car.

In this review, presents an overview of the most significant changes.

Engine Options

The revised Polo continues to be as competent as ever on the road. We drove the 1.4 litre 80PS 3 cylinder TDI which replaces 75PS TDI. In comparison with its predecessor, we felt that it was a little bit noisier and had a narrower power band, although other journalists disagreed with this view and considered it equally versatile to its predecessor. Overall, it is more than adequate for everyday driving and continues to be the pick of the range. As was the case with the 9N, vibrations from the diesel unit are very well damped and not noticeable in the interior. Steering feel continues to be absent (as is typical for all super-minis these days) and the brakes maintain the Polo's reputation for an effective, if over-assisted, system which also lacks feel and is, again, typical of the modern super-mini. Further revisions to the diesel engine line-up have been made. At the bottom of the range, a 70PS 3 cylinder TDI replaces the 64 SDI unit. The 1.9 litre TDIs are available in 100PS and 130PS guises.


The petrol engine line-up remains unchanged, with the 50PS and 64PS 1.2 litre 3 cylinder units continuing to structure the lower end of the range. Mid-range petrol options are provided by the 75PS 4 cylinder and 86PS FSI 4 cylinder units. Petrol options currently top-out with the 100PS 4 cylinder unit, although rumours strongly suggest that the 150PS variant of the 1.8T (upgraded to achieve Euro 4 compliance) will be added to the range in GTI guise in due course.

External Revisions

The most notable revisions to the Polo are found externally in its frontal styling, which now apes the new Passat by adopting a similar headlamp profile and v-shaped grill. Interestingly, the surround to the radiator grille is not chromed (as per the Passat and forthcoming Jetta), but is assembled from a separate part to the bumper moulding itself, which suggests that a chromed alternative could be easily fitted. Sport models have a chrome trim on the grille itself (per the 'Highline' radiator grill from the 9N) rather than the V-shaped surround (per the new Passat).

The main beam headlamp bulbs adopt the miniature VW emblem on their caps, as first seen on the Golf. As suggested by others, these do not have material between the 'V' and "W' lettering and should - in principle - project the VW emblem although this was not tested.


The Polo exhibits the least revision from the side, with changes limited to new wing mirrors that incorporate side indicator repeaters and altered front wings that delete the original repeater locations and add a swage line running from the base of the A-pillar forward.


Revisions to the rear of the polo comprise an altered rear window profile and new rear light clusters. The rear lights are now asymmetric (with the rear fog light being provided on the offside and the reverse light on the nearside only). When viewed directly from the rear, the new clusters give the "circle within a circle" motif that can be seen throughout the range.


Manufacturers often implement mid-cycle updates "in the plastic" only as, by keeping the original tooling for metal body parts the high cost of altering metal presses is avoided. Interestingly, Volkswagen have not constrained the facelift in this way. Other than the doors, all non-shell pressings exhibit a revised design, as the bonnet, wings, and rear tailgate have all been updated. Volkswagen have not skimped on cost when updating the external appearance of the Polo.

The revised front end increases the Polo's front overhang to bring its overall length to 3916mm (a 19mm increase). The Polo's width remains unchanged at 1650mm, but its ride height has increased by 2mm to 1467mm and its wheelbase has grown by 5mm to 2465mm.

Interior Revisions

In a similar manner to this latest model updating, the revision of the Mark IV Polo to the Mark V saw the mechanical underpinnings remaining largely unchanged with most revisions being cosmetic. Despite this, Volkswagen achieved a stunning transformation of Polo's interior when moving from the Mark IV to the Mark V and produced an interior that was highly distinctive for its class. As the 9N's interior has been criticised by many as too staid when compared with its competitors, and has been the source of several known assembly faults, it was anticipated that Volkswagen would use the opportunity of this latest model revision to similarly radically update the Polo's interior. Sadly, this has not been the case.


Interior revisions are minimal and are restricted to ancillary equipment. The steering wheel now has moulded hand grips on some models, and all stereos are double-DIN units. All models feature updated instrument clusters with a revised typeface and the addition of chrome dial surrounds. Other than revised seat fabrics and the revision of the rear view mirror to a dark plastic, this is the extent of the Polo's interior revisions. Overall, it must be concluded that this is an opportunity lost for Volkswagen to differentiate the Polo as achieved with the Mark V, but perhaps the GTI (when it arrives) will see the addition of more distinctive features.


The facelift brings the opportunity to specify optional equipment that has not previously been available on the Polo. Satellite navigation, when specified, combines a full-sized MFA display in the instrument cluster with a monochrome display in the main stereo unit, together with overly-polite female voice prompts to provide an extremely effective solution. Rear parking sensors can now be specified, as can a package combined rain-sensing wipers with an auto-dimming rear view mirror. In interesting addition sees the availability of a tyre pressure monitor, which presumably works off the ABS system.


The revised Polo exhibits a few changes that appear to be cost-reduction measures. The third sun-visor (deleted part way through the 9N's production) continues to be absent and is similarly replaced by a hatched area on the windscreen. However, the interior map-reading lights and vanity mirror lights have also been deleted resulting in a headliner that, when compared to the 9N’s, its notably lacking in features. Under the bonnet, immediate de-specification is apparent as a hydraulic lifter is no longer used. Instead, the Polo has reverted to a traditional 'stick and latch' mechanism stored across the slam panel. Further, in a surprise move, and as noted by others, Volkswagen have deleted the side impact air bags from the standard Polo specification. These are now optional equipment which can be specified alongside curtain airbags, if desired.



Overall, the revisions to the Polo are somewhat underwhelming. While the logic of the front styling revisions is apparent, it divides opinion into two camps: those that preferred the Polo's previously "cute" image created by its round headlamps disapprove of the change; while others - including Volkswagen itself - consider the revised styling to symbolise a mature and sensible image. This opens the gap for the forthcoming Fox to provide the "cuddly" and "fun" offering, although this will require clever marking as these traits are not expressed in its design solution either.

Internally, the minimal changes are extremely disappointing and, while perhaps the revolution of the Mark IV to Mark V update could not have been hoped for, a more extensive reworking was anticipated. The current interior does, again, reflect Volkswagen's desired mature and sensible image for the Polo but runs the risk of being considered staid and rather dull. A clearer picture will emerge once the interiors of the forthcoming revised Fiesta, new Punto/Corsa, new Clio and new 206 are available for comparison.

Overall, it's great to see the 130PS TDI remaining in the range, and while it does come with a hefty £14,690 (£15,290 for the 5 door) OTR price tag, its presence suggests that Volkswagen are serious about retaining a performance offering in the Polo range. With rumours of the long-awaited GTI solidifying in recent months, and with the facelift capitalising effectively on the 9N's solid dynamics, final judgement of the new range must be reserved until the "driver's" Polo is available. Personally, this author hopes that it brings stimulating internal and external aesthetic cues as well as the thrilling driving experience offered by its Golf sibling.